Skip To Content
Fast Forward

This Israeli Is Making Alexa’s Voice Sound Like One Of Your Family

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is increasingly family-friendly and helpful, largely to the credit of Adva Levin.

Levin, a content producer and designer, is the founder Pretzel Labs, an Israel-based voice design studio that focuses on creating experiences for families. In an interview with Forbes, she explained that she implements that focus in applications for Alexa, such as with Kids Court (for settling fights between kids) and Out the Door (a fun way to get them ready for school).

“In both of these skills, my attempt was to redefine the roles of Alexa in the household and try to shift her from a voice controlled music player to an active member of the family,” Levin told Forbes. “I thought of Alexa as an extra personality in the house, and wanted to see how she can help reduce friction between parents and kids.”

Levin says to do her job, it’s important to know how to listen to people and talk to them — she designing an actual conversation.

“There are two sides to building a good conversation with a computer: understanding what the person wants, and writing the AI persona that communicates with them,” she said, explaining that she hopes to advance away from irritating machine operators that know where to connect only after “1” is pressed.

There are implications to this technology: privacy concerns. In October, Amazon applied for a patent that would give Alexa the ability to learn all sorts of information about its user, from characteristics — accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age — to physical location, The Intercept reported.

Yet, Levin said she is confident that the relationship between humans and voice assistants will continue to grow. She reasons that kids today are speaking to their devices, saying things like, “Alexa I love you” and “My Alexa is smarter than yours reasons.”

“Where there is a voice, even though it’s coming from something so abstract and technical as a small speaker, people tend to think of it as a person communicating with them and are forming really emotional bonds,” she said. “[Alexa] has a name, a voice and a very well written character, and is feeling very human.”

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.